It doesn't matter if it's a long par-3, a short par-4 or a reachable par-5, making the right shot choice first depends on having the right clubs to choose from. Today, fairway woods have become longer, bigger and more powerful than ever, and hybrids, on the other hand, have become more specific, acting as either long-iron replacements or high-lofted fairway-wood replacements. The key is to begin analyzing your current set makeup in order to determine what's missing. Need a club that goes 215 yards and stops on a dime? How about a 3-wood that flies almost as far as your driver, albeit a lot straighter? Maybe both? Discerning your needs is crucial to hitting better shots. And with today's models, it's hard to go wrong.
Sole Provider The sole of a fairway wood or hybrid is especially important since it's used off the grass in a sweeping motion, unlike a digging motion that an iron may have. Some FW models have fins to help minimize friction, while others may have smooth soles to help the club slide through the turf. Either way, the technology of most fairway woods and hybrids is on the inside, where much of the weight is placed low and deep on the sole to help lower the center of gravity. A lower CG promotes a high launch angle for higher shots. The deeper in the sole the CG is placed, the higher the MOI, which affects the clubhead's forgiveness and loss of distance on off-center hits.
About Face What's in a face? It depends. In the case of the Tour Edge Exotics CB2, the face is a titanium "cupface" design, which means the entire front section of the clubhead and a portion of the sole and crown form a cup shape, which is then Combo-Brazed onto the rest of the club. This method helps not only strengthen the face, but adds strength where it's needed and promotes a low and deep CG to promote a higher ballflight. As for COR, most fairway woods have CORs that challenge drivers in the category (reaching the 0.830 limit). When it comes to shape, note that shallow-faced models tend to have lower CGs than deep-faced models.
Choose The Right Clubs! If there's one thing for sure, it's that fairway woods and hybrids don't get the credit they so deserve. In fact, we think fairway woods and hybrids don't get enough play, either, considering many amateurs still tend to hit driver off every tee and long irons from the fairway, despite there being other clubs that are a lot easier to hit. Therefore, let's make 2007 the year we start playing smarter by choosing a fairway wood that gets the job done both off the tee and on the grass. Also, now is the time to drop those long irons from the bag in favor of a hybrid (or a few). Check out the following models, and pay attention to which clubs have the kind of performance benefits that will help your game the most. Trust us, the right fairway woods and hybrids will lower your score immediately.
Understanding Our Charts Features: The primary design elements that make the wood noteworthy. Advantages: How the primary design elements are meant to elevate the wood's performance. Benefits: A general recommendation as to which skill level or player type would be best served by the wood model in question. What We Like: We have our preferences, too. A quick description of what impressed us in our review and testing. Lineup: The other wood models available from the manufacturer. Clubhead: The primary material from which the club is either forged or cast, usually a form of steel. There are titanium models, but steel dominates the wood market, as the smaller head size mandates the use of heavier materials. Clubface: Indicates the material used for the strike area. Check out the prevalent use of maraging steel for the face. Lofts: Lists all of the lofts available in the line and whether or not the wood models are available for lefties. Shafts: These are the stock graphite shaft offerings from the manufacturer. Almost all fairway woods are available with custom shaft options, however. See the manufacturers' Websites for details. The driver is the star of the golf club world, and as such, gets seemingly all the attention, all the kudos and all the technological advancements. As a result, for a lot of golfers fairway woods have become nothing more than afterthoughts that are needed simply to fill out their collection of clubs. This approach is a definite mistake, and one that should be immediately exchanged for one that views fairway clubs as critical members of every golfer's arsenal.Adams Insight BUL adamsgolf.com (800) 622-0609 | $199 Built to be exceptionally forgiving, the Insight BUL is also very long. Features: The steel body of the Insight BUL is combined with a titanium face and crown section to effectively strengthen the hitting area, as well as lower the CG and elevate the club's MOI. Advantages: The upside-down appearance (remember the ol' Tight Lies?) makes it easier to sweep through the rough or hit from, you guessed it, tight lies. That doesn't mean it's not great for hitting off the tee as well, as the Insight BUL proves its worth as a solid driver alternative. Benefits: Players who like to hit it long from the turf. What We Like: The titanium crown and face really make for a solid feel and sound at impact. It also gets the ball airborne in a hurry. Lineup: Insight BUL, Insight BTY, Redline RPM, RPM Low Profile Clubhead: Stainless steel, Titanium Clubface: Titanium Lofts: 13_¡, 15_¡, 18_¡, 21_¡ Shafts: Adams 75g Speedline graphite by Aldila (X, S, R) Bob Burns No Bananas bobburnsgolf.com (920) 991-9663 | $175 Slicers know that slices aren't just limited to tee shots. The No Bananas is designed to help straighten out shots from both the tee and fairway. Features: By utilizing a subtle offset and a clubface angle that's closed a couple degrees, the No Bananas fairway woods help not only correct slices, but also promote drawspin, which eventually leads to more distance. Advantages: The 3-wood model comes with adjustable weights to aid trajectory and fine-tune spin. The 5- and 7-wood are remarkably forgiving. Benefits: Obviously, the golfers who will get the most out of the No Bananas are slicers. The drawspin adds extra distance too. What We Like: We're still in love with the logo! Nevertheless, the performance also speaks for itself. Lineup: No Bananas Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Same Lofts: 15_¡, 19_¡, 24_¡ Shafts: Bob Burns graphite (S, R, A); Custom shafts available Bobby Jones Player Series bobbyjonesgolf.net (866) 858-5522 | $230 Jesse Ortiz has taken his vast knowledge of both traditional and modern wood design to create a unique club with an elegant look. Features: An eye-catching shape and low-profile design that utilizes a forged maraging-steel crown insert to move more weight into low and deep areas of the clubhead for a low and deep CG. That means higher-flying shots. Advantages: Playability from the tee, fairway and rough, as well as higher launch angles and greater overall distance. Benefits: Higher overall trajectory for greater distance, forgiveness and accuracy is ideal for virtually every kind of player. What We Like: Unusual but classy look combined with modern performance. The Bobby Jones and Jesse Ortiz combo is a plus. Lineup: Players Series Clubhead: Maraging steel Clubface: Same Lofts: 13_¡, 15_¡, 17_¡, 19_¡ Shafts: Graphite Design JS graphite (X, S, R) Callaway Big Bertha callawaygolf.com (800) 818-5117 | $199 The new Big Bertha fairway wood is bigger than the original Big Bertha driver! Features: This set of fairway woods feature wide soles and a wide width from head to toe, all the while maintaining a low profile. This design affords the club a low CG position and a strong MOI, for shots that fly high and straight. Advantages: Like the driver, the clubhead of each fairway wood rests on two areas of the sole, and the new white alignment aid along the leading edge of the clubface makes aligning the clubhead a breeze. Benefits: Those who want to bomb it from the fairway. What We Like: We couldn't believe this club was actually bigger than the original BB. Not only that, but we think it's longer as well. Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Same Lofts: 16_¡, 19_¡, 22_¡, 25_¡ (16_¡, 19_¡ available LH) Shafts: Big Bertha Fairway Graphite (S, R, A); Custom shafts available Callaway X Hot callawaygolf.com (800) 818-5117 | $229 Equipped with the kind of technology normally reserved for drivers, the new X Hot Fairway from Callaway begs golfers to go for more par-5s in two. Features: The new X Hot Fairway model has a 44-inch shaft, and like the Big Bertha fairway woods, is also bigger than the original Big Bertha driver. Only this time, the X Hot has an enhanced Carpenter steel clubface for increased ball speed. Advantages: The oversized design lends a high MOI and lowered CG, and the 44-inch Fujikura Banzai shaft makes this fairway wood driver-esque. Benefits: Players who want driver-like distance from the fairway. What We Like: Is this really a fairway wood? Or a driver? Lineup: Big Bertha, X Hot, X, Fusion Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Carpenter steel Lofts: 15_¡ (available LH) Shafts: Fujikura Banzai (S, R, A) Bridgestone J33 bridgestonegolf.com (800) 358-6319 | $179 Traditional profile designed for more accomplished players, but with the addition of modern technological advantages. Features: Constructed from responsive 17-4 stainless steel for increased ball speed, the J33 fairway woods also feature an elastomer compound insert within the clubhead for reduced vibration at impact and a more efficient energy transfer for greater distance. Tungsten weighting in the sole effectively lowers and deepens the CG location. Advantages: Penetrating trajectory with added distance and forgiveness. Benefits: Provides accuracy as well as shotmaking versatility, making it a wood for everyone. What We Like: The impressive blend of traditional looks and modern performance, and the Aldila NV shaft is a fantastic addition. Nice price, too. Lineup: J33 Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Same Lofts: 15_¡, 18_¡, 21_¡ Shafts: Aldila NV 75 graphite (X, S, R)
Cleveland HiBore Fairway clevelandgolf.com (800) 999-6263 | $219 Cleveland's HiBore Fairway woods use Distance Driven Geometry and make hitting from the fairway a piece of cake. Features: Like the HiBore driver, the HiBore Fairway woods have an inverted crown design, which aids in effectively placing the sweet spot and the hot spot of every wood right in the center of the clubface. This helps golfers attain not only maximum ball speed, but also the optimal launch characteristic desired for each wood. Advantages: The large face area works to minimize any loss of distance on off-center hits. Benefits: This club will perform well with any kind of golfer. Better players can upgrade the shaft What We Like: The look inspires confidence, and they're almost too easy to hit. Lineup: HiBore, Launcher Comp Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Same Lofts: 13_¡, 15_¡, 19_¡, 22_¡ (15_¡, 19_¡ available LH) Shafts: Fujikura HiBore graphite (X, S, R, A); Custom shafts available Cobra Speed LD cobragolf.com (800) 225-8500 | $225 M: F:
Cobra's latest entry in the fairway wood category includes a diverse collection of woods designed for maximum power and slice reduction. Features: The Speed LD fairway metals have an extended profile from front to back, as well as an increased slope in the crown section to further enhance the MOI as well as lower the CG. Translation: bigger and higher shots. Advantages: Each metal is designed to promote a draw, which not only eliminates slices, but also tacks on a few more yards of distance. Benefits: Recreational golfers will find these woods appealing; slicers will dig the offset version. What We Like: These woods look like drivers, but it's pretty easy to get the ball airborne off the turf. Lineup: Speed LD: F, M Offset, M Offset Seniors, M Offset Women's, Speed Pro Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Same Lofts: 15.5_¡, 17.5_¡, 18_¡, 20_¡, 21_¡, 23_¡, 24_¡, 26_¡ (available LH) Shafts: Speed Pro LD graphite (S, R, A, L); Nippon steel (S, R) KZG GF2 kzgolf.com (800) 200-8800 | Custom Order Movable-weight technology continues to be a valuable asset among more seasoned players seeking the utmost in fairway wood shotmaking. Features: The GF2 fairway woods feature what KZG called "Gravitational Force Technology," which enables clubfitters the ability to adjust between 49 different weight configurations. This type of customization can either enhance or eliminate fades, slices, draws and hooks. Advantages: The stainless steel body and sole are very strong, but the proprietary steel used in the clubface is what launches the ball at blazing speeds. Benefits: All players who want a fairway wood that yields consistent results. What We Like: The no-nonsense good looks and the piercing trajectory. Lineup: Gemini, GF2, CH III, Cobalt Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Proprietary maraging alloy Lofts: 15_¡, 19_¡, 23_¡ (15_¡, 19_¡ available LH) Shafts: KZG Novatech graphite (X, S, R, A, L); Custom shafts available MacGregor NVG2 Draw macgregorgolf.com (800) 841-4358 | $199 With Greg Norman now a principal investor, MacGregor is even more hell-bent on helping golfers improve than ever before. Features: Designed with a draw-bias, MacGregror's Cup-Face 360 technology and a Triple Action shaft, these fairway woods are bona fide slice removers. Advantages: The cup-face design really enhances the sweet spot, making it much more forgiving on off-center hits. The draw-bias weighting not only eliminates slices, but helps add distance as well by imparting drawspin for a more penetrating ballflight. Benefits: Slicers, but also those who want to hit it farther from the fairway. What We Like: No offset needed. The genius is inside" Lineup: NVG2, NVG2 Draw Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Maraging steel Lofts: 13_¡, 15_¡, 18_¡, 21_¡ (15_¡, 18_¡ available LH) Shafts: Fujikura Triple Action graphite (X, S, R, A) HiPPO ITX3 hippo-golf.com (800) 204-2807 | $99 The ITX3 fairway woods incorporate the same cool technology found in the ITX3 driver. Features: Of the few fairway wood models that incorporate carbon and steel, the ITX3 does it well by combining a carbon crown with a stainless steel face. The ensuing result is a low CG that produces a high initial launch angle. Advantages: Additional weight bars in the heel region promote a draw bias and reduce the effects of a slice. The radiused sole enables the clubhead to slip through the grass with ease. The ITX3 fairway woods also seem to fit as the perfect buffer between the ITX3 driver and ITX3 hybrids. Benefits: Players of all skill levels will appreciate the performance and great value of the ITX3. What We Like: A great performer and among the best clubs you can buy for the money. Lineup: ITX3, XXL, OS4 Clubhead: Stainless steel, Carbon Clubface: Stainless steel Lofts: 15_¡, 19_¡ Shafts: HiPPO proprietary graphite (S, R)
Mizuno F-50 mizunousa.com (800) 966-1211 | $200 Mizuno applies composite-crown technology to fairway-wood design. Features: A composite crown combines with a steel body to produce a low and deep CG. Speed Plate sole design and Mizuno's own Exsar graphite shaft round out the features of this top-notch fairway wood line. Advantages: Carbon-composite crown technology moves weight away from the top of the club and toward the bottom, making it easier to get the ball airborne. A unique sole design reduces turf drag. Benefits: Golfers who want a technological advantage (and extra distance and accuracy) in their fairway woods. What We Like: Use of visible carbon-composite crown without taking away from the classy look. Lineup: F-50 Clubhead: Stainless steel, Carbon Clubface: Stainless steel Lofts: 13.5_¡, 15_¡, 16.5_¡, 18_¡, 21_¡ (15_¡, 18_¡ available LH) Shafts: Mizuno Exsar FS2 graphite (S, R); True Temper Dynamic Gold steel (S, R)
Nike SasQuatch 2 nikegolf.com (888) 799-NIKE | $239 The latest club to enter Tiger's bag, the SQ2 is already considered to be the best fairway wood ever from Nike. Features: Not to be confused with a Disneyland attraction, the Monorail sole design of the SQ2 slides through the turf with ease, resulting in less friction and greater clubhead speed at impact. In addition, the PowerBow to the rear helps to place weight farther back for a lowered CG and raised MOI. Advantages: The Cryo-Steel clubface is very strong, and despite being a member of the oddly shaped SQ line, the SQ2 fairway woods retain a classic look. Benefits: All players will reap the rewards of this club. Maybe not the same rewards Tiger does, but you get the idea. What We Like: The ballflight is high and penetrating. Lineup: SasQuatch 2, Ignite T60 Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Same Lofts: 13_¡, 15_¡, 17_¡, 19_¡, 21_¡ (available LH) Shafts: SasQuatch Diamana graphite (X, S, R, A); True Temper Speed Step Light steel (X, S, R, A) Perfect Club Collection theperfectclub.com (866) 843-0260 | $100 The original Perfect Club was designed to replace long irons. Now the company has developed an easy-to-hit alternative to almost every long iron and fairway wood in your bag. Features: The Perfect Club collection of woods is designed with shorter shaft lengths, which always means more control. Furthermore, each club features offset to help golfers make square contact more consistently and minimize sidespin. Advantages: The head has rear weighting for a deep and low CG, promoting a high trajectory and a lot of forgiveness. Benefits: High-handicappers will appreciate the extra help the Perfect Club delivers. What We Like: The ease of use. Lineup: Accuracy, Original, Plus, Spoon Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Same Lofts: 15_¡ Spoon, 18_¡ Plus, 21_¡ Original, 24_¡ Accuracy (available LH) Shafts: Perfect Club graphite (S, R, A, L). PING G5 pinggolf.com (800) 4-PING-FIT | $225 ($180 steel) PING continues its rise in the wood category with the new G5. Features: The G5 offers a larger head size than most traditional fairway woods, a welcome development for many golfers. The strength of the steel used in the clubface allows for a thinner, more powerful hitting area, while internal weight pads, which move progressively back in the head as the loft of the club increases, optimize CG location. Advantages: The large head size provides confidence and added forgiveness. The thin clubface enhances feel and ball speed and, as a result, distance. Benefits: Golfers who like to hit their 3-wood off the tee will like the larger size, as will those who opt for the 5- or 7-woods. What We Like: Unique alignment aid on the crown. Lineup: G5 Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Same Lofts: 13__, 15__, 18__, 21__, 24__ (available LH) Shafts: PING TFC100, Aldila NV 75 or Grafalloy ProLaunch 75 graphite (X, S, R); PING JZ steel (X, S, R) PING Rapture pinggolf.com (800) 4-PING-FIT | $299 The Rapture drivers are already wildly popular and successful. Will the same hold true for the fairway woods? (We think so.) Features: Each Rapture fairway wood has a plasma-welded titanium face that lightens the load up front and a weight pad located directly below the CG to produce a high initial launch angle and improved overall distance. Advantages: The all-titanium design of the Rapture afforded PING the luxury of placing weight farther around the perimeter, therefore enhancing the club's MOI and forgiveness on off-center strikes. Benefits: All golfers will find the Rapture to be useful in reaching par-5s in two. What We Like: We like results, and the results are outstanding. Lineup: G5, Rapture Clubhead: Titanium Clubface: Same Lofts: 14_¡, 17_¡, 20_¡ (available LH) Shafts: PING TFC 909F graphite (X, S, R, A); Custom shafts available Sonartec GS Tour sonartec.com (760) 930-2454 | $220 From the company who quietly became a fairway wood superpower comes a much louder entry into its fairway wood arsenal. Features: The GS Tour has a driving cavity located in the sole to effectively reduce drag and enhance the club's natural sweet spot. Known for manufacturing fairway woods that cater to better players, the GS Tour this time has a lower CG and a higher launch angle for greater playability. Advantages: A refined leading edge makes crisp contact easy. Benefits: Moderate to better players who know that Sonartec makes great stuff. Let it be known, the GS Tour is even better than before. What We Like: It's so long, you'll wish you hadn't spent $400 on a new driver. Lineup: GS Tour, SS-2.5, SS-3.5, LS-99 Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Same Lofts: 13_¡, 14_¡, 15_¡, 18_¡ Shafts: Graphite Design Red Ice (X, S, R, A); Custom shafts available TaylorMade r7 Fairway Steel taylormadegolf.com (800) 888-CLUB | $229 The steel version of the r7 fairway holds its own against the rest. Features: The r7 Steel fairway woods